How to Be Better Than You Were Last Year


In the middle of July, like it or not, we teachers really begin thinking forward to the next school year as we enter “back to school” mode. In-between attending professional development, looking for school supply deals, scoping out decor inspiration, professional reading and hunting for materials to help teach content, teachers must also make sure to make time for reflection. Reflecting on the core routines, procedures, and practices of the previous year enable teachers to be more intentional in getting ready for our new group of students.

Reflecting on our practice honestly is key for teachers in order to continuously improve our effectiveness. When I reflect, I believe it needs to be in the context of how my teacher actions affected and led to student actions. The following list is not exhaustive, but are questions that  I have gathered and asked myself that help me re-focus over the summer to start to prepare for the next school year:

Classroom Goals

  • Did I have classroom goals that were taught explicitly, that the students could name?
  • Did we reach the classroom goals?
  • Of those we reached, why did we reach those? What can we do next year to build on that success?
  • Of those we didn’t reach, why didn’t we reach those?
  • Were my classroom goals big, measurable, and easily articulated to kids?
  • Did I do a good job of investing the kids in the big goal? What can I continue to do, or improve upon for next year to improve investment with students?

Classroom Culture

  • Did I really get to know all of my students this year?
  • If so, what do I need to ensure I continue to do next year to get to know the new group? If not, what do I need to do differently?
  • Did my attitude toward my work contribute to student learning or hinder it?
  • Are my relationships with students helping the students learn, or hindering me from effectively behavior managing?
  • Would I want to be in the class? Would I want my child to be in this class?

Student Behavior

  • What teacher actions led to student misbehavior this year?
  • What about my classroom layout/set-up allowed for student misbehavior?
  • Was I consistent with my classroom behavior management plan? If not, why not? What should be changed?
  • Do I need to teach the behavior expectations differently next year, or outline them more explicitly?
  • What worked and what didn’t work with my classroom management plan overall?
  • Did I follow through when giving consequences/communicating with parents? If not, why?
  • Was I consistent in rewarding/incentivizing positive student behavior?
  • Is what I did this year to reward positive student behavior sustainable for next year’s group of kids?
  • What can I do to improve next year to encourage positive behavior/buy-in of class goals?
  • What can I do to improve re-directiing and tracking negative behavior?
  • Who can I speak with or go observe to get ideas regarding behavior management?

Collaboration & Team Function

  • In what areas can I improve in order to help the team?
  • Did my actions prohibit my team from growing, working more efficiently, or trying new things?
  • What “worked” on our team?
  • What can we do to become more consistent?
  • How can we support each other better in the next year?
  • What is at least one thing that we should try as a team next year?
  • Does our team exhibit to kids that we believe all of them can meet expectations and can succeed at a high level? If not, what must we change so that is the case?


  • What can I do next year to further prioritize my family instead of taking so much work home with me?
  • What can I change for next year that will make me a more efficient teacher?
  • How can I structure my classroom, planning period, short down periods during the day to maximize my effectiveness at school?
  • What do I need to prioritize next year so I can live a balanced life?
  • What can I do next year to help me stay excited about teaching?

Instruction/Teaching Practices

  • What lessons “worked” this year?
  • For lessons that didn’t work, was it because of lack of preparation, they weren’t interesting to kids, they should be taught in a  different order?
  • Did I give enough feedback to kids? If so, was my feedback meaningful?
  • Did my grade book reflect student learning and progress?
  • Did my assessments assess learning effectively?
  • Did I backwards plan effectively?
  • What can I do to better assist those who don’t “get it”?
  • What can I do to better assist those who work more quickly and need meaningful extension?
  • How do I know that my students are learning?
  • How can I add student choice and voice into my classroom on a daily basis?

Any type of intentional reflection on your key practices as a teacher within the scope of how your teacher actions led to student actions and outcomes, will help you “Be Better Than You Were Last Year”.

*a version of this post appeared on http://www.kelseynhayes.com*

Categories: #ForwardBloggers, Notes from Forward

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